KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) – Malaysian police have detained 17 suspected militants who authorities said Monday had planned to attack police stations and army camps to acquire weapons and carry out terrorist acts in Kuala Lumpur.
Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said they were detained Sunday. Khalid tweeted that two of them had just returned from Syria.
This brought the number of suspected supporters of the Islamic State group arrested since last year to 92, a police official said.
Home Minister Zahid Hamidi said the 17, aged between 14 and 44, were planning to attack police stations and army camps to acquire weapons.
He was quoted by national Bernama news agency as saying in Parliament that the group was also planning to kidnap certain high-profile individuals. Their names were not disclosed.
Authorities also believe the suspects were trying to make bombs as police found notes on bomb-making written by Imam Samudra, an Indonesian who was convicted and executed for his role in carrying out the 2002 Bali bombings, Zahid said.
The suspects included two army personnel and two students, and some of them had received militant training in Afghanistan and Indonesia’s Sulawesi province.
The detentions came just days after the Home Ministry proposed two new anti-terror laws that will reintroduce indefinite detention without trial and allow the seizure of passports of anyone suspected of supporting terror acts in a bid to curb suspected militant activities in the country.
Critics slammed the move as a revival of a controversial security law that was repealed in 2012 and warned the proposed laws could severely curtail civil liberties.
Opposition lawmaker Nurul Izzah Anwar warned in a statement that the new laws could be misused against political opponents.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act bill will allow authorities to detain suspects indefinitely without trial and the decision cannot be challenged in court. The Special Measures Against Terrorism in Foreign Countries bill empowers authorities to suspend or revoke the travel documents or any citizens or foreigners believed to be engaging in or supporting terrorist acts.
“The draft counter-terrorism law is like a legal zombie returned from the grave of the discredited and abusive Internal Security Act,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Other proposals will increase penalties for terror-related acts, including up to 30 years in prison for those found receiving terrorism training or instruction.
The proposed bills will be debated in parliament this week.
“This is a real threat and prevention measures are needed,” Zahid said.